St Patrick’s Day is Ireland’s National Day and is celebrated every year on 17th March. It is celebrated throughout the world since Ireland has a very long history of outward migration and indeed almost every major city in the world has its own celebration.
It has its origins back in the early history of Ireland………
In a typical Irish fashion, St. Patrick was not actually Irish. Various legends tell us that he was born around 370 A.D. in Britain, probably in Wales to a Romanised British family. His original name may have been Maewyn. He took the name of Patrick, or Patricius, meaning “well-born” in Latin, after he became a priest.
Britain, in Patrick’s time was a province of the Roman Empire, which was the in decline and was therefore easy prey for raiders, including those who crossed the Irish Sea from the land known as Hibernia or Ireland. When Patrick was sixteen, he was seized by raiders and carried off to Ireland. His captor, in Irish legend, was Niall of the Nine Hostages.
Patrick was sold as a slave and most of his time was spend alone on the slopes of Slemish Mountain, tending his master’s flocks of sheep. During the long, lonely hours in the fields and hills of Ireland, Patrick found comfort in his Christianity.
Six years passed by. Then in a dream, Patrick heard a voice saying, “Thy ship is ready for thee.” He believed this to be God’s way of telling him to run away.
He escaped Ireland by ship, but God would call him back years later. Patrick had escaped his boyhood enslavement in Ireland only to hear the call of God as a man to return. He was being called on, he felt, to convert the Irish to Christianity.
When Patrick began his mission about 430 A.D., Ireland was a pagan country with a Celtic religion administered by priests called druids. He succeeded in converting the Irish kings to Christianity and in time the people followed (though some vestiges of the older religion were incorporated into Irish Christianity and some old beliefs have indeed lived on in Irish folklore).
By the time of his death, Patrick had baptized tens of thousands and established hundreds of churches throughout Ireland.
One legend is that he used the three-leafed plant which the Irish call a Shamrock in order to explain the concept of the Trinity to the Irish.
The Shamrock remains today one of the symbols of Ireland.
Within a century this once pagan land became predominately Christian, possessing such a vigorous faith that Ireland in turn sent missionaries to Scotland, England, and Continental Europe.
St Patrick died in his beloved Ireland on March 17th, around the year 460 A.D. St Patrick’s Day is celebrated on that date to commemorate his death.
St Patrick’s Day has developed into a day to celebrate the Saint himself and also the notion of being Irish. So St Patrick’s Day today is a day to celebrate all Irish heritage and is open to all Irish people of whatever persuasion or none and indeed open to all friends of Ireland who want to help us celebrate our National Day.